enlarger lenses: the best.

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Woolliscroft, Nov 11, 2006.

  1. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I once borrowed a shiny, new super-duper EL-Nikkor somethingorother from a friend to see if it would make any difference in sharpness in my prints compared to the cheap Meopta Anaret-S I had been using until then.

    It did, so I handed the EL-Nikkor back and continued using the sharpest lens: The Anaret.
     
  2. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
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    Well Tom, I've tried it and found it rather tough to match a print at, let's say f/2.8 and 5s with another at f/16 and theoretical 160s. And of course four more prints in between. It's not impossible but it's very time consuming and unnecessary, but maybe I'm too picky. Anyway, the magnifier test is much quicker and tells the same story. And yes, it might not matter if you can't see it in the print, but I thought the exercise was to determine which is the best aperture? Then again, you might see the difference at another enlarging scale. In my opinion, it's good to know which is the best aperture, and then make a judgement, case by case, if the difference matters.
     
  3. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I have 2 very good lenses to use with 35mm..a 50mm ApoRodagon, a 63mm N 2.8 El Nikkor. Both lensesd offer a more contrasty image at 5.6 than 4.0, both lenses have superior corner sharpness at 5.6. These effects are visible in the prints.
    This is with using double glass carriers on a Dirst S45 which is free of alignment problems.
     
  4. matti

    matti Member

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    In larger magnifications with my EL Nikkor 50 mm, I can clearly see that stepping down just one or two stops gives the sharpest grain. At least in the middle, as I can not see the corners. I have a Magnasight focuscope, with more enlargement than some other focus lupes.
    And I hope different wavelengths or something change this optimum in the print.

    /matti
     
  5. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Nobody's saying that ignorance is good. Those who are debating the point are saying that a test using a grain focuser might not "tell the same story," to use your words, as evaluating actual prints. I've outlined why in an earlier post, so I won't go into those details again.
     
  6. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
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    Correct. I'm glad your method works for you. Thanks for sharing.
     
  7. rossb

    rossb Member

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    I have a collection of 30+ year old Rodagon and Componon lenses for various formats, my 90mm Apo Rodagon probably remains the stand-out, but all give good results
     
  8. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Fair enough. I have to admit my intrest only goes as far as the effect on my prints. If I cannot see a difference between f5.6 and f11 using my 80mm f4 Rodagon, then I am happy using my lens anywhere in this range. Even if you cannot get a 100% identical print as far as the densitometer reading says, if it looks as near as dammit (i.e. you cannot see a difference really), I doubt it will have a huge effect on the perception of sharpness. I am happy to leave my investigations there and am a bit perplexed why anyone would want to go further rather than just print more good prints!
     
  9. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
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    It might just be the engineer in me, but in order to judge an aperture to be the best, I want to see an image made with all apertures. Otherwise, I can't compare. Just saying 'This looks good enough to me' does not satisfy the test, because there might be better.
    I have met a bunch of folks lately, quite happy with their digital prints until they see a good analog print. They don't know what's good until they see a better one.
    Stepping through the projected image allows me to do this quickly and gives me a relative quality statement. To get an absolute measure, one needs to make a print, I agree, but this is not necessary to find out which the best aperture happens to be. The aperture looking best under the grain magnifier will always make the best print. How good? For that you need to make the print, but there is no need to make a print for all apertures.
     
  10. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Claire
    how does the El Nikkor perform to the apo? I use a 90mm for 2 1/4 and I really like the extra coverage . I would imagine the 63mm would give the same type of extra coverage for full frame 35mm negatives.
    bob
     
  11. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Ralph,

    Its not a case of 'this looks good enough' but if I cannot see a difference in a range of middling apertures...I cannot see a difference. under extremely detailed arduous testing, it might be possible to say that f6.7 is better than f8 on my 80mm Rodagon, but is it takes a 90 inch print thats not too relevant to me. It is absolutely not a case of its good enough. I have performed 'good match' tests at verious apertures ie matched for density to the human eye and could not see a difference in the range I mentioned at the size I printed that was worthy of mention. So even if a difference could be detected under a microscope at 90 inches, if that does not apply to my applications it is not that important. I am extremely finicky about my prints but whilst I might be unsure of a wide open print or one stopped right down, there is a band of middling apertures where results on all my lenses are so good that it just is not worth worrying about....just as it is with camera lenses where the same practical approach is required. whilst the difference between f5.6 and f22 might be significant on an f4 max lens, that between 1 and 2 stops down is unlikely to be visible under real world consideration. If it is, fine, but I have not found this to be the case on 5 MF and LF enlarging lenses. I guess when really heavily enlarging 35mm negs this might be more of an issue, it is less of an issue witgh MF and all but irrelevant with LF (where I saw no difference whatsoever between f5.6 and f11 on a 150 f 5.6 rodagon enlarging a 5x4 neg to 20x24 looking at the print).
     
  12. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
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    Tom

    I agree with that. It sounds like you've done more than most. I wouldn't go any further either. I'll give you 101 out of a 100. Thanks for sharing the details. Very impressive!
     
  13. phfitz

    phfitz Member

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    Hi there,

    I must be confused, I always thought that:

    1) insert neg, rough focus and compose the print
    2) hold a small hand mirror at the farthest corner of the easel and stop down until you JUST get a full round, clear aperture.
    3) grain focus and print at that aperture

    Did I miss something?
     
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  15. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I have not done much testing and what I have done has been relevant to my output. Certainly my needs dont apporach those of people who make 40" prints from 35mm. I generally dont print much 35mm, but have generated perhaps 30 rolls here in Kabul and will print them when my new darkroom is up and running in the new house. I will certainly run a few basic tests on my (new to me but used) 50mm Componon S to see how it behaves as with the greater enlargement factor differences between F stops are likely to be more marked.
     
  16. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
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    Please explain your 2nd point a bit more. I have never heard of this.
     
  17. phfitz

    phfitz Member

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    Hello Ralph<

    "Please explain your 2nd point a bit more. I have never heard of this."

    "2) hold a small hand mirror at the farthest corner of the easel and stop down until you JUST get a full round, clear aperture."

    It's just more convenient to hold a mirror and look up into the lens than turning your head. The print will need to 'see' a fully round, clear, unobstructed aperture to be sharp all the way out to the corners. By stopping down until you JUST see a full round aperture, it's at it's widest opening that will still cover the corners, the best compromise setting. This should not be any problem with large prints but can be a bother with small prints OR very short WA lenses. With most modern lenses it should still be in the 'sweet spot'.

    Oh, I do disagree with Ctein, 4 element tessar type enlarger lenses should not be avoided, but relished for what they are and can do, softer contrast and definition for portraits. Once you realise that there is a focus shift from f/8 to wide open you can use it to advantage. If you use split-filter printing, you can use split-filter diffusion that is INVISIBLELY DONE but noticeable in the print. Do all of the grade 5 printing at f/8 - 11 and half of the grade 0 printing. Now open the lens and do the second half of grade 0. Adjust the grade 0 percentage to adjust the diffusion.
    (grain focus at f/8 then open the lens and see what happens.)

    Have fun with it.
     
  18. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
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    Interesting concept. Have to try that one day!
     
  19. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

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    enlarging lenses

    If it comes from a quality manufacturer its probably ok in my experience. When I printed full full frame 35mm negatives on 11x14 paper I used both an old kodak 75mm ektanon and a new 6 element rodagon(80mm) I failed notice any difference in either sharpness or contrast. Printing 4x5 negatives up to 16x20 I have used a 4 element 150mm roganar-s and a 135mm componon-s(6 element) and can discern no difference although I have had many tell me I should. Yes, I did check with a loupe!
    My conclusions so far are that if the enlargement ratio is modest any of the big name lenses work fine as do some wierd ones i.e. I started 4x5 with a 139mm B&L tessar still can't tel the difference between it the roganar or the schneider componon-s. I do strictly B&W though so when it comes to color I don't have any experience.
     
  20. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    I can only report on my own (limited) experience.

    My secondhand darkroom gear came with a 50mm f2.8 EL-Nikkor which I've always found to be excellent. Granted, the lenses I was comparing it with were at a college darkroom and some had been comprehensively 'studented'. However, even the ones which appeared to be in good nick did not return as crisp an image.

    When I added 6x6 I correspondingly added an 80mm f5.6 Companon-S. This was... well, adequate but uninspiring. The prints were okay but did not really have the snap of the 135 ones I was getting from the Nikkor.

    Recently I acquired a Rodagon 80mm f4 (not APO) from ebay. It's gorgeous! The prints are extremely sharp and crisp and it's an absolute joy to use (someone really thought about ergonomics when they put this item together).

    Conclusions?

    1) I'm not much of a lens tester!
    2) Others have had good experiences of Companon-S's, so it looks like the theory of 'individual variation' holds up
    3) If at first you don't succeed, pick another one up off ebay or from a dealer. Once you get one you like you can always return the others into circulation.
    4) Probably worth making a few prints at different apertures to find what works best. Given the 'individual variation' this may well vary from lens to lens. Theories are great, but 'suck it and see' is difficult to beat.

    However, if you can't tell the difference between a print you've made at f11, f8 and f5.6 then nobody else can either, so relax and get back to printing! (Note - I'm not trying to step on any toes here. I have to choose whether I spend my (limited) darkroom time testing or making prints, and (personally) I'd rather make prints.)

    My 2p!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2006
  21. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
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    I rather test and then make good prints.

    But maybe that's what you meant.
    Too much testing is as bad as not enough testing, because the result is the same... not enough good prints.
     
  22. ongarine

    ongarine Member

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    After years of El-Nikkor, first experiences in the darkroom, and years and years of Componon, Neonon and Rodagon I have a special question for the Great Britain darkroom workers and world wide too: what is the quality of the following English enlarger lenses:
    Wray Supar
    Ross Resolux
    Taylor Ental
    I never had the chance to use one of them and I'm curious to have information to know if they worth a test.
     
  23. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've used a 4 1/4" Ross Resolux for printing my 6x9 negatives, and it seems to work. I've got some more of these negatives to print the next few days, so I'll give it a proper check!
     
  24. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    I believe we agree, Ralph. The 'good' part on the prints I'm still working on...! :smile:
     
  25. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
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    You and me both! Let's keep trying.
     
  26. Shiny

    Shiny Member

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    i use Minolta E Rokkors, a 50mm & 75mm both give excellent results on 12x16 prints and seem to be way better on edge sharpness than my Schneider Componon 50mm, though that lens may not be representative of Schneiders in general - its obviously been around a bit!

    jim
     
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